TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Sunday night the Pirates capped off their toughest 18 game stretch of the season going a combined 13-5 against the Giants, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers and Cubs.
The Pirates own the best record in baseball since May 7th and maybe it’s the 20 years of losing that still causes some reluctance to peg this team as a World Series contender but this team is really good despite some of the flaws they have and unlike the past two seasons, they have a swagger about them. They truly believe they can win a World Series. Enjoy the run.
2. There hasn’t been a more important development for the Pirates than Gregory Polanco’s emergence over the last four weeks. Hitting .330/.379/.511 in month of August, Polanco has changed the entire dynamic of the Pirates lineup and the Pirates $60 million offer to him isn’t looking so crazy any more. Polanco’s 1.096 OPS on 0-0 counts has him living up to his name of first pitch Polanco but Polanco is starting to learn some plate discipline. Polanco’s first 260 at-bats this season, he walked just 24 times, over his last 184 at-bats, he’s walked 21 times.
3. The Pirates have the third most errors in the Majors with 91. Last season the Pirates 109 errors were also the third worst mark in the Majors. 2013 the Pirates had the ninth most errors in the Majors. This group has never been a fundamentally sound team and they certainly are not right now.
Playing Jordy Mercer’s glove full-time isn’t going to solve the issues over at first base. This team is at its best when it has the eight best hitters in the lineup and Mercer as the full-time starting shortstop doesn’t give them that option.
“I’ve never had this flexibility before,” Hurdle said Sunday night of the Pirates depth.
Jung Ho Kang as the starting shortstop gives the Pirates their best lineup offensively as they can then play Ramirez or Harrison at third. Going that route and inserting Mercer and other defensive replacements in the seventh should be the route to go for Hurdle but appears unlikely.
4. While some with power in the organization believe Antonio Brown’s contract situation should be looked at as a special situation, Kevin Colbert on Trib Live Radio last Thursday shut the door on an extension happening for Brown. “Players sign contacts. We expect them to honor those until they are a year out except for the Quarterbacks,” Colbert said.
Brown is the ultimate hard worker and regarded as a great teammate but if Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton cut into his production some this season, which appears likely with how ready both seem to be for bigger roles in the offense, does the contract stuff start weighing on Brown and he becomes a distraction?. One long-time NFL negotiator told me if the Steelers don’t change their policy towards Brown next off-season, it’s a near certainty that Brown will go the holdout route next year. “He has no choice,” the individual said.
5. Bargain shopping continues in the NHL this month. Former Penguins defenseman Christian Ehrhoff inked a one year, $1.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings over the weekend. As expected, Ehrhoff’s market price from contenders he wanted to sign with was below $2 million per season. The Ehrhoff camp was shopping an offer from the rebuilding Carolina Hurricanes believed to be worth around $2.5 million per season to contenders Ehrhoff was interested in signing with, Kings, Blue Jackets, Islanders, and no one budged.
The Penguins never circled back towards Ehrhoff even with his price so low and GM Jim Rutherford, Ehrhoff’s agent Rick Curran having a very close relationship. The Penguins believe he’s damaged goods.